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Topic: Could 'related residents' save depopulated settlements in rural area of Japan?


Could ‘related residents’ save depopulated settlements in rural area of Japan?

-Case study of spatial management at three settlements in Nanmoku-Village,Gunma Prefecture-

This paper aim to evaluate the role which ‘related resident’ play in  sustainability of depopulated settlements, and to propose municipal programmes to support them.

27.7% people are over  65yo in Japan. Especially in rural area, depopulation and aging is serious problem. Nanmoku-Village in Gunma Prefecture is most aging municipality where 60.5% residents are over 65yo among about 20 millions. Rural situation in Japan is good reference for those in EU countries in near future, even though it prove that the government have failed in land policy and decentralization since post-WWII. Depopulation is caused that most of local young people go to cities for education and employment, and do not return, that a few people immigrate to rural.

Therefore this paper focuses on ‘related resident’  most of  whom have a blood relationship with residents and live in the outside. Many of them often visit settlements for cultivation, joining traditional ceremony, maintaining vacant houses and graves. Related residents include a few people who have no blood relationship with residents and buy or rent vacant houses as summer houses.

At 3 settlements, there are 117 vacant houses and 71 resident houses which means 62% houses are vacant. Related residents who cultivate are at the rate of 19% among all who cultivate. Cultivation generate strong motivation to visit settlements. 24% of related residents visit there more than once a month. 12% of them do the same, even as houses have been vacant for more than 10 years. Half of related residents maintain vacant houses.

Many of  them enjoy chatting, drinking with residents, walking, hiking, fishing, outdoor cooking, picking wild plants, river bathing, and just watching TV in fresh and quiet air at the veranda.

Among related residents, summer house users are only 5 families, 4%. Among residents, immigrants are only 8 families, 7%. However, related residents visiting there regularly are 77 families.

It is predicted related resident will play the major role.

But over the years, they quit cultivation and secondly quit maintain vacant houses, and finally they relocate their graves and stop to visit, which shows the process of related residents disappearance.

Giving them some privilege(Ex. Delivering motor way tickets for their returns), inviting a party with residents, making a place for gathering and inviting gardening lectures are proposed as municipal subsidy programmes, toward their inclusion as honored residents, for their contribution to spatial management regarded as personal and traditional activities till now.

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